By Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch
This year has been devastating for children. The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the education of 1.5 billion students, pushed an estimated 150 million additional children into poverty, left many without caregivers, and increased child labor, child marriage, and violence in the home.
But despite the enormous hardships, the year has also brought some good news for kids. As we finish the year, here are 10 areas of progress from 2020:
- Greece ended its longstanding practice of detaining unaccompanied migrant children in jail cells.
- Both Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe committed to ending the exclusion of pregnant girls and teenage mothers from school.
- The US states of Minnesota and Pennsylvania both enacted laws to ban all child marriage before age 18.
- Five more countries – Estonia, Malawi, Seychelles, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda – committed to protecting schools during armed conflict by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, bringing the total to 106 endorsers.
- A hospital in Chicago pledged to become the first in the United States to stop performing medically unnecessary surgeries on children born with intersex traits.
- FIFA imposed a lifetime ban on the Haitian soccer federation president for systematic sexual abuse against female players, including girls.
- South Sudan signed a comprehensive action plan to end violations against children in armed conflict.
- Saudi Arabia announced that it would end executions of offenders for crimes committed before the age of 18.
- Japan and Seychelles banned all corporal punishment of children, bringing the global total of countries with a comprehensive ban to 60.
- A treaty aimed at eliminating the worst forms of child labor reached universal ratification.
These examples show that progress is possible even during dark times. The coming year, 2021, will bring more challenges, including getting children back into school and responding to the pandemic’s impact on their lives. As the world tries to “build back better,” children need to be at the forefront.